The UFC as we see it is a complete 180 degree turn from what it was in the early 2000s.
Now there are fights every weekend, there are consistent free fight nights and the UFC currently has sponsorships and network deals that have propelled the sport to the front of world athletics. Before, there was Spike TV and a monthly PPV. In the fog of the uncertainty, the UFC would go where the Heavyweight division would take it. From the woods of Iowa, Tim Sylvia helped launch the UFC into a new era of success.
The First Heavyweight Trilogy
When we talk about the early days of UFC lore, trilogies are everything. Shamrock v. Ortiz, Hughes v. St. Pierre, Liddell v. Couture, etc. One of the most underrated trilogies involve Sylvia and another famed champion, Andrei Arlovski. With only a combined seven rounds of action, Sylvia and Arlovski fought for the Heavyweight title every single time. Arlovski with his Sambo background, submitted the wrestler with an Achilles lock in their first bout. Sylvia would strike back with a ferocious TKO victory in their second fight and he finished business with a decision victory in the third.
Walking into UFC 68, Sylvia was 23-2 and the reigning champion. He would go against UFC legend Randy Couture and it was not his night. A decision loss would be the start of the back-end of Sylvia’s career. He would fight for six more years and finish with a record of 31-10 before embarking on a TV career.
Couture would lose his title to Brock Lesnar who went on to set UFC records in views and PPV buys. Today the heavyweight division has been reignited with heavy headed fighters and phenomenal fights. However when you tell the story of the heavyweight division, you can’t tell it without the tale of Tim Sylvia. With victories over Ricco Rodriguez, Ben Rothwell, Arlovski and Brandon Vera, Sylvia’s name is etched in fighting history. He was just a country bumpkin who could wrestle and he turned it into gold.
Then, Now, Forever
Tim Sylvia was a fan who found Pat Miletich and went on to change sports history. He is a legend, champion and all around brawler. I appreciate Tim being one of the first MMA memories I hold and I hope future fight fans show respect to his legacy.
Featured image credit to Embed from Getty Images